Volume 1 2006–7 is the first in a series of six large pencil drawings for which Paul Noble drew the entirety of British sculptor Henry Moore’s (1898–1986) sculptural output, as recorded in the six-volume official catalogue raisonné by Alan Bowness, Henry Moore: Complete Sculptures (London 1965–88). The second drawing from the series is also in Tate’s collection (Volume 2 2006–7, Tate T13873). The title of each drawing in Noble’s series refers to the respective volume number of Bowness’s catalogue which Noble used as his source. Thus this drawing relates to volume one of Bowness’s catalogue and depicts all the sculptures included in that volume. Noble has drawn the sculptures so that they all overlap and appear as a mass of tangled lines, having been, in Noble’s words, ‘bellmerised’ (after the style of artist Hans Bellmer, 1902–1975). As well as making reference to the actual volumes of the catalogue raisonné, Noble’s choice of title draws attention to the paradoxical nature of the drawings, which represent the three dimensional volumes of Moore’s sculptures in two dimensions. By overlapping these forms more and more in order to evoke the cumulative volume of the sculptures on one sheet of paper, Noble’s drawings have the reverse effect and appear to flatten out the shapes of Moore’s work.
Drawing occupies a central place in Noble’s practice. He uses recurring motifs and themes to create large and complex compositions which frequently contain specific artistic or cultural references, with the example of Henry Moore being one of the most enduring throughout his work. Several of his drawings construct the fictional and eccentric setting of ‘Nobson Newtown’, an invented town masterminded by Noble’s alter ego, the architect ‘Paul’: see, for instance, Lidonob 2000, Tate T13325, which depicts the town’s public swimming pool, and Paul’s Place 2002, Tate P78667, which depicts the fictional architect’s house. Noble’s playful exploration of Moore’s sculpture began in the first of his ‘Nobson Newtown’ drawings, Paul’s Palace 1996, which shows the artist’s ‘palace’ built on sand adjacent to a pile of discarded sculptures by Moore that occupies a corner of the drawing. Here Noble suggests that the monumental scale of Moore’s work, as much as his reputation (as registered by the catalogue raisonné in the recent drawings), might be more ephemeral than it seems. Moore’s work has appeared in Noble’s subsequent drawings in different forms and guises: as monumental public sculptures, as awkward characters within the Nobson settings, or more specifically in this group of Volume drawings and in the very large Monument Monument 2007 that he completed at around the same time. Like the Volume drawings, Monument Monument (the monument of the monument of Moore’s work) features the sculptures from Moore’s six-volume catalogue raisonné. This time, however, Noble has drawn them clear and whole. Rather than overlapped, the sculptures are drawn stacked on top of one another, resulting in a single drawing over six metres high.
Paul Noble, exhibition catalogue, Whitechapel Gallery, London 2004.
Paul Noble: Welcome to Nobson, exhibition catalogue, Gagosian Gallery, London 2011.
Lizzie Carey-Thomas and Sofia Karamani, Turner Prize 2012, exhibition booklet, Tate Britain, London 2012, p.18.
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